Spring Wrap 2004

Well, 15 spring practices are in the books for Keith Gilbertson. It was the first spring he has conducted as Washington's head coach, and he and his new staff got a lot of excellent work accomplished. Now if they can just somehow find a way to exterminate the injury bug that has attacked the Huskies so badly, this team might prove to be better than most think.


Obviously there is some work to do on the offensive line, but the guys that were able to stay healthy looked solid. Weak Tackle Khalif Barnes will have his best season yet after regressing at times over the past two seasons. The other tackle spot was won by fellow senior Ryan Brooks, who has underachieved up to now. It looks as if Gilbertson and new offensive line coach Charlie Dickey have gotten through to him. He now looks like a Pac-10 football player. The depth behind those two is greener than the Husky Stadium field turf, so no more injuries are allowed here. On the inside Brad Vanneman emerged as a budding center before he went down, and Juan Garcia really looked the part before breaking his fibula. It's unclear how long it will take Garcia to return from his injury, but Vanneman will return for sure and reclaim his starting position. Stanley Daniels has turned himself into a nice interior offensive lineman, and just in time. Washington desperately needed someone to step up with Tusi Sa'au's status in limbo (back condition) and Rob Meadow rehabbing a knee. Clay Walker has gotten bigger and will only continue to improve.

In the prefect scenario, Washington hopes to start Barnes and Brooks on the outside while having a healthy Sa'au and Meadow flanking Vanneman. If that can't happen, look for Walker to move up to the first team and for Daniels to provide a lot of minutes off of the bench spelling the inside guys. Chad Macklin will probably be the backup tackle. He has never played a snap of Pac-10 football, but it would allow Tui Alailefaleula to redshirt and for Graham Lasee to get bigger.

Tight end is a mess. With Joe Toledo's status questionable for the fall and Ben Bandel's arthritic knee acting up, Jon Lyon is about it. Dash Crutchley proved to be a speedy target, but it would be nice to give him a bit more time at the position before throwing him into the fire. Rob Lewis has just moved into this spot, he's intriguing with his speed and long arms – but he is a redshirt freshman. He needs more time. This could be a place where a true freshman could really have an impact. Caesar Rayford was recruited to play offense and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the big hole in the ground at tight end. Gilbertson has referenced Rayford many times this spring and is excited about his future. His future may be right now.

At wide receiver, Washington is knee-deep. There are seven to eight guys that could see the field this year. Charles Frederick is ready for a big senior season and the underclassmen under him on the depth chart are talented. Sonny Shackelford had some bumps and bruises but he has that certain "something" that you look for in a receiver that you want to trust. He's a player. Quintin Daniels will have his hands full keeping him and Corey Williams off of the field. Charles Smith made great strides this spring after a hand injury kept him from being any factor last fall. Anthony Russo also looks like he'll play some in the slot as well as return kicks and Jordan Slye had his moments this spring. Craig Chambers and Bobby Whithorne trail behind the rest but continue to improve.

I would think that ET and Williams will get the nod and that Shack will be the slot guy when the FSU game kicks off. The others will play but that's who I see starting.

At tailback, Kenny James is the man. He's proven to be the best back between the tackles, the best hands, and the most reliable blocker of the bunch. He should get 15 carries per game. Behind him it will be a constant logjam, which is what you want. Shelton Sampson and Louis Rankin will battle all fall camp for the right to get those next 8-10 carries. After Spring, I'd say it's even-Steven, but Rankin was coming on strong. He's faster to the outside than he looks, and very shifty. Sampson still may be best on the sweep or option wide. Chris Singleton will be a junior so he's the upper classmen of the bunch. He may find it very difficult to unseat the guys above him, but he's a hard worker and has an excellent attitude. What a nice group of tailbacks Gilby has to call on.

At fullback, it's definitely a one-two punch. Zach Tuiasosopo gives you the in-your-face fullback up the gut on the dive plays or as a lead blocker. But when you want a fastball up the middle or a guy that can do serious damage on screen passes, James Sims is your guy. His position change from safety has been a breath of fresh air. Although he won't get that many snaps in the offense, when he does get them, he'll be busy. He is a weapon.

The quarterback battle will continue into fall with Casey Paus probably going into camp as the number one guy. However, Carl Bonnell was probably the most comfortable leading the new offense. The vanilla thing you saw on Saturday's scrimmage was not really what you will see this fall. And I have a hunch when the opener against Fresno State arrives, Bonnell will be the guy behind center to begin the season. Gilbertson will use more than one quarterback, though. Count on it. I would imagine that both Stanback and Paus will see time until one separates from the others. And DEFINITELY DO NOT count out Matt Tuiasosopo from playing. This offense is a dream for a quarterback of his abilities.

With two starters on the defensive line missing, Randy Hart had to do some shuffling. He came up with a pair of aces in Casey Tyler and Wilson Afoa. Tyler has unbelievable upside, as he can move like a tight end at 6-6 and 290 pounds. He's just a redshirt freshman so he'll continue to get stronger, but he is an athlete. Afoa did enough to earn praise from Hart, but still needs more size. Look for Manase Hopoi to take back over one of the interior spots this fall and Milsten and Tyler will battle for the other spot. Milsten isn't as big as Tyler but he's more experienced. Both will play. Mike Mapu has good size as does current starting defensive end Donny Mateaki. Both of those guys could move inside but currently are at the big "Husky" end.

The pass rushers from the edge will be Ty Eriks and Brandon Ala. They are co-number one although Eriks appears to get more reps with the ones. Ala has had some nagging injuries throughout his career so far and Eriks has moved positions four times. Washington will look for help here from a newcomer or two. JC Transfer Rashaad Goodrum was at the spring game but is still not eligible for school, which is a concern.

The linebackers are going to be small, but they can run and will take better angles than they have in years. Chris Tormey is a real stickler for that. Inside Joseph Lobendahn missed the entire spring but he'll be back to start. Next to him will likely be Evan Benjamin, who looks much more comfortable near the line of scrimmage than you'd think for a kid that has only practiced there 15 times. Tim Galloway is a senior and will also be inside and has a lot of experience. Tahj Bomar is an exciting player with a great nose for the ball, and he'll see action inside as well. On the outside, Scott White is the man. He's going to play a lot and he's going to make a lot of things happen on defense. Kyle Trew perhaps had the best spring scrimmage of all of the linebackers, and really opened some eyes. However he'll most likely play behind Galloway and Lobendahn for this year and really see the field a lot in 2005. Converted safety Durrell Moss is still undersized, but is an able backup to White at SAM.

The safety mix will be altered significantly once Dashon Goldson returns this fall. He'll play some strong and free safety for the Huskies, but his strength is run support. Jimmy Newell will be the quarterback of the secondary at free safety. He was lining the guys up all spring, like another coach back there, and he looks best in coverage. C.J. Wallace is the current strong safety starter and is probably best suited to support the run. Chris Hemphill looks terrific back there at 6-5. He has great hops and can run well despite his long strides, but he isn't as solid in coverage as Newell. Still, he plays a mean center field with his height and athleticism. Look for Keauntea Bankhead to get a shot back here come fall.

The corner rotation is as tight as it's been in a while. Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham, a pair of seniors, are ready to play some lock-down defense. Behind them are Matt Fountaine and ‘Dre Simpson, keeping legs fresh. The corner play was good all spring.

The kicking game looks to be in good shape with Evan Knudson and Sean Douglas. Knudson won the place kicking job and firmed it up by drilling a 46-yarder in the final scrimmage. Douglas' kickoffs are excellent, and he has a slim lead in the punting. The sophomore needs to become more consistent in the punting department, but it looks like he's going to have the job.

The return team will be Charles Frederick and whoever else Scott Pelleur wants to pair up with him. Look for Derrick Johnson at times, Sonny Shackelford at other times, and Anthony Russo too. Johnson will probably get the nod, except on kickoffs after the defense has been on the field a while. Then DJ will get a breather and Shack or Russo will come on and spell him.
Dawgman's starting lineup for 2004 - assuming Sa'au and Toledo don't return

WT Khalif Barnes 6-6 300 senior
WG Clayton Walker 6-4 290 sophomore
C Brad Vanneman 6-3 300 junior
SG Rob Meadow 6-5 300 junior
ST Ryan Brooks 6-6 290 senior
TE Jon Lyon 6-5 265 senior
WR Charles Frederick 6-0 190 senior
WR Corey Williams 6-1 195 sophomore
TB Kenny James 5-10 221 sophomore
FB Zach Tuiasosopo 6-2 250 senior
QB Carl Bonnell 6-2 190 RS-freshman

In the 8-man offensive line rotation:
SG Stanley Daniels 6-3 295 sophomore
C/OG Juan Garcia 6-4 280 sophomore
T Chad Macklin 6-8 290 RS freshman

Slot Receiver: WR Sonny Shackelford 6-1 195 sophomore

DT Dan Milsten 6-5 280 sophomore
DT Manase Hopoi 6-5 280 senior
DE Donny Mateaki 6-5 265 sophomore
DE Ty Eriks 6-2 240 junior
OLB Scott White 6-0 210 sophomore
ILB Evan Benjamin 6-0 210 junior
ILB Joseph Lobendahn 5-10 230 senior
SS Dashon Goldson 6-2 205 junior
FS Jimmy Newell 6-0 200 senior
CB Derrick Johnson 6-0 190 senior
CB Sam Cunningham 6-0 190 senior

Nickel back: S Chris Hemphill 6-5 195 RS freshman

PK Evan Knudson 6-0 170 senior
P Sean Douglas 6-2 180 sophomore
KO Sean Douglas 6-2 180 sophomore

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